2019 Speakers


Bonnie Boettcher | President

HR Sherpaz

With a career spanning over two decades in the human resources and hospitality industries, Bonnie specializes in employment branding, talent acquisition, training and leadership development, career coaching and counseling, employee relations, legal and regulatory, and risk management.

In numerous progressive roles, Bonnie has guided businesses to reflect her conviction of “putting people first,” while balancing profitability. She believes in taking a forward-thinking collaborative approach to growth and development of employees, through an open and honest communicative style. In doing so, she has positively impacted teams of over 5,000 employees.

Bonnie expresses her passion for Human Resources in many outlets, including her memberships at the Society for Human Resource Management, the Women’s Food Service Forum, Wisconsin Restaurant Association, Metropolitan Builders Association and the Alma Center. In addition, she is a member of the Alma Center board. She has also participated in several speaking engagements at Fox Valley Technical College and WCTC.

Bonnie spends her free time traveling and cooking. She also enjoys games of cribbage with her husband, Brian, and shopping with her daughter Rachel. She especially attending her twelve-year-old granddaughter Kennedy’s (aka Peanut) sporting events.

HR Sherpaz gives back to the community by providing pro bono HR support to non-profit causes that are near and dear to their hearts.




Angela Eckman | Campus & Business Development Manager

Chippewa Valley Technical College

Angela Eckman is the Campus & Business Development Manager for Chippewa Valley Technical College where she has worked for the last 5+ years serving the Chippewa, Clark, Taylor, Jackson & Trempealeau counties with their workforce solutions. She also manages the CVTC branch campuses located in Chippewa Falls & Neillsville. Prior to that she was a Senior Branch Manager for Adecco Staffing serving Northcentral Wisconsin for 8+ years working with area businesses to offer Human Resource Management solutions. She currently serves on the Chippewa Falls Chamber of Commerce Board, Neillsville Area Chamber Board, Industrial Development Corporation Board for Chippewa County, Women’s Business Conference Planning Committee & the Eau Claire School District Revenue Committee. She has also completed Chippewa Fall’s Leadership Academy Program, CVTC’s Leadership Academy and is certified in Crucial Conversations. She holds an undergraduate degree from UW-Stout in Business Administration and is currently pursuing her MBA at Lakeland University. She lives in Eau Claire with her husband and 4 children.




Sarah Gordee

Hookd Promotions

For the last twenty years Sarah has been working in B2B services everywhere from the Silicon Valley to the Twin Cities. She is now happily settled in Eau Claire and ready to shake things up in the marketing world! An expert in sales and customer service, Sarah works hard to advocate for our clients’ marketing needs and create the best experience that Hookd can provide. She has learned the art of listening, and she will walk through fire (literally she has done this) to get the job done! She’s your connection to #teamHookd!




Damian Hanft | Vice President Training

Buffalo Wild Wings, Inc.

Damian Hanft is Vice President Training (& Team Member Activation), for Buffalo Wild Wings, Inc. As a teacher and a learner in it for the purpose, Damian believes that successful teams are developed through authenticity, radical candor and a lot of laughter. He is passionate about building innovative talent and learning teams in growth-centric environments, while developing an authentic culture that attracts and develops world-class talent. He has held leadership positions in training, talent management and learning and development. He plays a key role in developing leadership capabilities and the architecture of the team member experience.

Damian currently serves as a board member on the Association for Talent Development (ATD) Twin Cities Chapter and the national Council for Hotel and Restaurant Trainers (CHART) association. He holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin. As an active supporter of Share Our Strength, he has participated in three 300 mile Chefs Cycle ( rides.




Lee Heike

Hookd Promotions

When Lee Heike started Hookd Promotions in 2012, he leveraged his background in Journalism and Marketing, and made it his mission to bring innovative, custom marketing solutions to business leaders in the Chippewa Valley. Lee’s impressive network of industry professionals has helped him build so much more than a marketing agency. He’s pulled together a team of experts that aren’t afraid to take risks and be early adopters of new and innovative platforms and tactics. That means Hookd’s clients get the most bang for their buck in today’s digital world!




Dave Larson | Senior Director of Hospitality

Milwaukee 2020 Host Committee

Dave Larson is the Senior Director of Hospitality for the Milwaukee 2020 Host Committee. In this role, Dave is responsible for aligning over 1500 incoming events during the Democratic National Convention, with local resources including venues. He and the rest of the events team, will also plan and execute major events leading up to and in the days around the convention.

Previous to this job Dave was the Director of Convention Services at VISIT Milwaukee for the past 11 years. In his tenure, he and his team has worked with 3500 events with over 5 million attendees. Major events include the National Governors Association Annual Meeting, Harley-Davidson's Anniversaries, and Northwestern Mutuals' meetings.

He specializes in aligning national event needs with local Milwaukee resources. Dave is proud of his work to further the hospitality industry through his work at ESPA and Destinations International and locally with the MATC Advisory Committee and Community Intervention Team. In his personal life, he has completed over 20 marathons and 2 Ironman Triathlons.




Mark Laux

Hot Operator

Mark Laux helps restaurant owners, operators and marketers make communications and menus that produce a high return on investment and increase revenue through building powerful brands.

Mark started in the advertising communications business working with manufacturers and distributors in the foodservice industry. He led an advertising agency that helped a small, Midwestern appetizer company selling to restaurants grow their business from less than $1 million in sales to over half a billion. During that time, Laux was recruited by Wells Dairy, Blue Bunny Ice Cream, Farmland Foods, General Mills, ConAgra and Otis Spunkmeyer, McDonald's, Mels Diners among others for their expertise in marketing and brand building.

While Mark and The Laux Agency worked with foodservice manufacturers, distributors and operators, Mark saw the need for restaurants to improve their communications to increase their profitability, and through that vision created HotOperator.

Today Mark spends his business energy at HotOperator specializing in restaurant marketing, menu development, social media marketing, foodservice advertising, and consulting for the restaurant business. He has helped restaurant owners, operators, and marketers all across the country engineer menus and develop communications that produce a higher return on investment and increase revenue. Specifically, he drives toward a higher spend average, improved plate contribution, and a more satisfying dining experience for consumers. He believes everyone benefits from a healthy and profitable restaurant business community.




Brian Lee, APR | President

Revelation PR, Advertising & Social Media

Brian Lee, APR, is the president of Revelation PR, Advertising & Social Media, an integrated communications agency that specializes in the restaurant/retail industry. He also is a part-time lecturer on social media at Madison Area Technical College and the author of the book, “Using Social Media for Business.” In addition, Brian runs a dining guide called, which features a blog ranked No. 1 by Zomato.




Lorinda F. Lewis, PhD, DBA | President

Guided Problem Solving Training & Consulting LLC

Dr. Lewis is a scholar-practitioner, established in a wide variety of disciplines and areas of business. She has a passion for leading and developing others. She has accumulated her perspective through an unusual career trajectory that includes her experiences as a retired Air Force logistician, a continuous improvement and P&L executive of a Fortune 500 company, an adjunct professor at universities, and as a pro bono continuous improvement coach for Collective Impact Initiatives with not-for-profit agencies. She is a prominent public speaker and published academician who can translate complex ideas into relatable stories to inspire audiences of all levels. As a public speaker, she is in high demand internationally at academic and industry conferences as well as corporate leadership events. As an ICF & CCA certified executive coach, she facilitates classes, events and offers one-on-one professional development training and mentoring in public and private workshops. She is certificated to administer the Kirton Adaption-Innovation (KAI) Inventory, illuminating cognitive problem-solving styles. She is a licensed facilitator of Celemi Business Simulation Workshops, improving team member engagement and business acumen. As an adjunct faculty member at universities, she teaches business and leadership courses including organization development, lean, change management, coaching and mentoring for business, marketing, and global business strategy.

Lorinda has earned a Ph.D. in Business from Northcentral University and a DBA in Quality Systems from American Meridian University.




Sam McDaniel

Restaurant and Hospitality Consultant

Sam is a lifelong hospitality professional, with more than 25 years of experience in restaurants and food and wine production, sales and service. He is currently a consultant for restaurants and food and beverage companies, while also serving as the Food Pantry Coordinator at the Goodman Community Center, a neighborhood non-profit in Madison.

Sam has been a key player in the development of many thriving companies, and shaped the path of those organizations, both as an employee and as an outside consultant.  Sam has worked with large national restaurant and hospitality companies as well as independent restaurants, and has been directly involved in opening more than a dozen restaurant and food and wine retail outlets.  He has worked in sales, supply and distribution in the wine and beer business, including creating the Pioneer wine brand as a collaboration between Standard Market in Illinois and the Barra Family Winery in Mendocino County, CA.

For those businesses, he has had a wide-ranging set of responsibilities: he has overseen the leadership structure and conceptualized and written the mission and culture documents; been responsible for company financial performance; and been heavily involved in business planning, including marketing, sales, labor and profitability projections and management. Most importantly, he has had the opportunity to take the lead in hiring, training and mentoring a large and diverse group of people and building a successful community of partners, customers and stakeholders with them. Sam's consulting work now focuses on helping food and beverage entrepreneurs hire, develop and retain the high quality, high performing employees that are necessary to build a sustainable food and beverage business.




Tracy Qualmann | Account Executive

Red Shoes Inc.

Tracy is an Account Executive with Red Shoes Inc., a strategic communication and public relations agency. In her role, she serves as the primary contact for a variety of clients, handling the execution of the tactical and strategic elements of their communication efforts. Prior to joining the Red Shoes Inc. team, Tracy served as the Director of Marketing and Communication for a private university where she was responsible for ensuring the institutional brand, including oversight of internal and external communications, marketing, design, social media, photography, video, and website, as well as serving as the institution’s primary information officer (PIO) during a crisis.

Tracy is active in her community, serving on several Board of Directors and, recently, served on an emergency management task force, assisting in the development of a full-scale exercise that engaged emergency management, law enforcement and community PIOs. Mom to two grown children, Tracy enjoys time with friends and family, traveling and a great bag of chips.




Dan Ritter | Director of People Analytics


Dan is the Director of People Analytics at illumyx, using data to help clients understand how teams get work done and how to optimize organizational culture. Dan is a former logistics manager who led operations from last place rankings to top of class. He attributes this success to a combination of metric-based performance analysis and intentionally cultivating a workplace experience that emphasized autonomy and positivity.




Spencer X Smith | Founder

AmpliPhi Social Media Strategies

Spencer X Smith is the founder of AmpliPhi Social Media Strategies and an instructor at the University of Wisconsin and Rutgers University. He was formerly a VP of Sales for two Fortune 100 companies.

He's been called a "Social Media Expert" by Forbes, and AmpliPhi is the winner of the 2016-2018 InBusiness Magazine Executive Choice Award for Social Media Consulting Company. Spencer has spoken at over 250 events since 2015, including a presentation at the New York Stock Exchange in  September 2017. 

His debut book "ROTOMA: The ROI of Social Media Top of Mind" was featured in Forbes, and is an Amazon Bestseller.




Megan Suardini | Vice President of Marketing & Communications

VISIT Milwaukee

VISIT Milwaukee is a destination marketing organization that markets the Greater Milwaukee area as a top choice for conventions, events and leisure travel, thereby increasing the economic impact of tourism. Megan Suardini oversees the marketing & communications departments at VISIT Milwaukee, where she leads a talented staff of ten in creatively telling Milwaukee’s unique story to the world. Megan was born and raised in Indiana, and attended Xavier University in Cincinnati on a golf scholarship where she graduated with a B.S.B.A in Marketing. With over 18 years of marketing and branding experience, a decade in tourism marketing for both Chicago and Milwaukee, Megan is passionate about urban destinations and how travel can make everyone’s life better.